Introduction

This website is a place for me to talk about a number of interrelated topics. 

Firstly, it will be about craft and making stuff. This will include some reflections on my own experiences of making things, of various crafts, of designing, and my experiences of various technologies. You will find a lot of posts about making things, using tools, and thinking about the relationships between making, designing, thinking, and well, stuff.

Secondly, and just as importantly, I will at times incorporate thoughts on the impact of these activities on me sense of wellbeing, and its interaction with the depression I have been dealing with since the beginning of 2019 or so. (Its hard to tell, but I was formally diagnosed as it starting in February 2019, but I suspect it was creeping up on me from the previous year based on subsequent work.) There are some everyday, folk ideas about making, creating, and “doing things with one’s hands” as being good for one’s mental health that I think need to be explored, and to some extent challenged. 

Thirdly, these explorations will often be looked at through the lenses of previous work I have done on the evolution of cognition and mind. I have always felt that recent scholarship and research on the evolution of mind has often overly focussed on the evolution of the social and the linguistic capacities of humans, and has to some extent glossed over the evolution of Homo sapiens’ technical, mechanical, and manipulative capacities. The thought that often prompts my thinking is that we seem to tell evolutionary stories that gets us to choirs – groups of individuals co-operating, co-ordinating, and vocalising– but never to carpenters working quietly by themselves. At least part of my engagement in crafts and making things is inform my counter thesis; that human cognitive evolution is as much about technical competence as it is about social competence. The embodied cognition of crafts and making, the learning of new skills, the muscle memories, the relationship between the self and the tactile world, our capacity to learn folk physics, and to plan technological achievements through time and space; these are less well understood than we might think, and I would argue not as well integrated into our accounts of human cognitive evolution as they need to be.  And these skills underpin our capacities in everything from cooking, to carpentry, to the tying of a shoelace. Lots of animals are social, but they don’t build cathedrals or catamarans. We do, and we should have some idea of how our capacity to deploy skill in achieving these ends evolved. Our social and linguistic evolution is crucial to our evolutionary heritage, but so too is the precision grip.

Finally, at some point, it might be a place where I sell some of the outputs of my craft activities. I am not sure what that looks like yet, but it possible. Keep an eye out. 

I can currently be found in Auckland New Zealand. You can view my CV if you are mad keen, but its not that informative about what this blog and website is going to be about. That will have to wait for a bit.

If you are really really keen to get in contact with me, then you can email me at benjeffares@gmail.com

The Great Chair Adventure: Part 1

I have wanted to make a chair for some time. And, when I say sometime, I suspect it’s been lurking as a potential project since I was very young. The reason I say this is that when I was young, I used to go to exhibitions and a few other things with my father…

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